2020 was a year like no other. For me it was chaotic, emotional, and painful, but it was also a year of reflection, celebration, reconnection, and gratitude. Throughout it all, music helped me process the world. I’ve wanted to do an end of year album writeup for the past few years, but I always made excuses: I’m not a good writer, I don’t have time, no one will care, etc. This year I committed to it and the joy I got out of writing and reflecting on music that means so much to me has already been worth it! I’m not a music critic by any means so this isn’t a music review list; I tried my best to focus on my own experiences and the perspectives I’ve gained from these albums instead. The following is my 100 favorite albums from last year: I’ve included a playlist with my favorite song from each album, listed out albums 100 – 51, wrote short blurbs about albums 50 – 11 (pages 2 – 5), and went way deep for albums 10 – 1 (pages 6 – 15). I hope you can glean something from the words I’ve written about them. If I put even a single person on to a new album that they enjoy, I’ll be happy : – ) So, without further ado…
Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon III
Navy Blue, Ada Irin
Beach Bunny, Honeymoon
Chris Stapleton, Starting Over
Sporting Life, HBCU Gameday
Jhené Aiko, Chilombo
Pop Smoke, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon
Caroline Rose, Superstar
Rico Nasty, Nightmare Vacation
The 1975, Notes on a Conditional Form
Pink Siifu, NEGRO
Purity Ring, WOMB
J Hus, Big Conspiracy
Freddie Gibbs x The Alchemist, Alfredo
Grimes, Miss Anthropocene
Yung Lean, Starz
Chloe x Halle, Ungodly Hour
21 Savage, Savage Mode II
Laura Marling, Song for Our Daughter
Taylor Swift, evermore
Ela Minus, acts of rebellion
Kelly Lee Owens, Inner Song
SAULT, Untitled (Black Is) / Untitled (Rise)
Moaning, Uneasy Laughter
Arca, KiCk i
Gorillaz, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
Alina Baraz, It Was Divine
Ambar Lucid, Garden of Lucid
SAINt JHN, While the World Was Burning
Thundercat, It Is What It Is
Omar Apollo, Apolonio
Nick Hakim, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD
Khary, THIS IS WEIRD
US Girls, Heavy Light
Waxahatchee, Saint Cloud
Ty Dolla $ign, Featuring Ty Dolla $ign
Perfume Genius, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Four Tet, Sixteen Oceans
Princess Nokia, Everything is Beautiful / Everything Sucks
Jessie Ware, What’s Your Pleasure?
Bartees Strange, Live Forever
Kali Uchis, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞
Growing up traveling, I have experience with several different kinds of trips. I grew up visiting places with my family, but also visiting my parents’ home country of the Philippines. Just comparing those two travel types, I had a very different travel experience in both. When we went to Europe, we were doing popular experiences and seeing well-known sites. However, when we would go to the Philippines, we would stay at my grandparents’ farm in the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya, a rural region of the Philippines. The experiences were completely different—immersion is much more of an “authentic” experience, but tourism is a way to see important cultural or historical sites that many local people may not even know much about. When considering my own travel experiences, I have done a study abroad program in Arezzo, Italy with the engineering program. At that program, I did not become friends with any Italians let alone even really meet any Italians. One thing I’ve noticed with programs such as those based in Arezzo is that it seems like many students use it as a vacation in order to experience being in a different place with other OU students. While that is okay, I personally prefer to see how people of the country live and things that are important to them. In Bhutan, we have had the opportunity to meet many Bhutanese people and talk to them about their lives and thoughts on their country and culture. We have made genuine friendships with many of them, which was something that was never even really offered at the Arezzo program due to the OU in Arezzo campus. Now when I travel I make it an important point to try to talk to as many locals as possible to get a feel for how their experience actually is. While tourism is still fun and can be a great experience, I always think that tourism can be done while immersing oneself in a culture but never the other way around.
It is very interesting how tradition changes over time around the world. Considering traditions in the United States, most holidays do not have any real meaning for most people past a day off work and time to spend with family and friends. Typically, traditions in the United States are ritualistic without meaning—For example, during the biggest U.S. holiday of Christmas, most people celebrate with gift-giving, Christmas music, a tree, and stockings. However, despite the Christian traditional background of the holiday, most people have no idea about why it’s celebrated and many people do not even celebrate any of the religious aspects of the holiday. I could not explain anything religious about the holiday despite my religious upbringing except that it’s supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. At this point, the Christian tradition of Christmas has fallen to the wayside in favor of more secular celebration, and whether or not this is a good thing depends on how important the individual asked considers the religious background of the holiday. In other countries, it has been interesting to compare the role of tradition versus modernization. In Bhutan, it has become a growing issue. Many policies have been put into place in order to ensure that Buddhist principles and traditions stay relevant as the country continues to modernize. However, it can be seen especially in the younger generation that many of the traditions are slowly becoming formalities rather than having historical or spiritual importance. It is important to consider whether or not the loss of the reason for traditions is worth the trade offs that result from the modernization of society.
My international group this semester was also the Multicultural/Diversity & Inclusion Engineering Program. It has been bittersweet being involved with the group, as it has been an amazing resource, support group, and way to meet people of diverse backgrounds. The organization has been very helpful, as engineering can not only be overwhelming, but can also make it difficult to have time to meet people besides others in my specific engineering program. Looking back on the importance of the D&I Program, it is evident how important this resource is for people from diverse backgrounds. In comparison to the typically ultra competitive engineering programs, the D&I Program provided guidance from the mentors along with support from other students. Many people from less privileged backgrounds often have to work through college or deal with issues that others may not have to worry about, which made the D&I Program extremely valuable for everyone involved. Since this was my last semester, it was a weird experience leaving an organization that I have been involved with for so long and moving to alumni status. We had a banquet that honored the graduating seniors, and it was very nice having my parents and sister there while I walked on stage. It was amazing to feel such a strong sense of belonging and support because of the D&I Program, and I cannot wait to give back to the organization in the future, as it has given so much to me.
This semester, I attended the AASA music night that was held in Beaird Lounge in the Union in collaboration with CAC Concert Series. I really like music, so when I heard about the event I thought it would be a cool way to support musicians who come from an Asian-American background. The event had food and performances from different Asian Americans performing very different things. While I was expecting pretty much everyone to sing, there were some more unique performances as well. The first performance was actually a saxophone player who played everything from popular saxophone songs like Careless Whisper to more modern songs, such as Drake’s Hotline Bling. The performance was very fun and had everyone laughing. The other performances included people singing and playing instruments like guitar and the piano. What I liked most about this event was that I was able to see the different talents that people of similar background to me have. There is an issue of Asian American representation, so going to events such as this one where Asian Americans have the opportunity to present themselves as normal, talented people is awesome and I hope there are more in the future.
This essay was written for the Expository Writing program class “Poets 2 Rockstars.” It was published in Brainstorm vol. VIII (2016). Brainstorm is the University of Oklahoma Expository Writing Program’s journal of student writing. All Expo students are invited to submit an essay from their Expository Writing class for possible inclusion in Brainstorm. At the end of each term, a selection committee will choose 3-5 of these submissions and invite the authors to revise their essays for publication.
Hip-hop, as a cultural force, has grown to mirror the culture it lives in and represents a narrative that had never been represented before in America. Rap, one of the five elements of hip-hop culture defined by Afrika Bambaataa (Aubry) that involves rhyming over a beat, has been highly controversial. One subgenre of rap known as “gangsta” rap still comes under fire today for its hyper-masculine lyrics involving violence, drugs, alcohol, money, and misogyny. The epitome of the “gangsta” rapper was Tupac Shakur (1971–1996), whose poignant and authentic portrayal of life on the streets in the Bronx and Brooklyn earned him unprecedented fame and whose scandalous personal life led to quite a bit of controversy. Tupac’s take on “gangsta” rap defined the hip-hop music industry and popularized the genre with American audiences. Tupac’s music expressed “realness,” an idea prevalent within hip-hop that artists must stay authentic and “true to oneself” (Williams 4). Tupac’s music was also special in the way that audiences could identify with it, especially those who grew up in similarly low-status conditions. This group of listeners, though, was very focused in comparison with the wider audience of hip-hop listeners from all races and backgrounds. Tupac had listeners who enjoyed and sympathized with his music and lyrics, yet they never lived in situations from which they could directly relate to his lived experience. Recently, hip-hop’s sound has been evolving and changing to reflect a different attitude in America. The idea of authenticity plays a large role for hip-hop fans, and, as times have begun to change, the idea of “realness” has been challenged. What constitutes authentic hip-hop, and what does this portrayal mean in terms of hip-hop’s cultural force? The answer lies within the audience—as listeners recognize authenticity, we define the impact that hip-hop artists make and the influence they have on the genre.
This semester I attended a Spanish Club meeting. I went to the meeting with my friend who has been studying Spanish since middle school, so he was pretty experienced. I do not currently study Spanish, but I used to study Spanish when I was in elementary school and find it to be a very useful language, especially in the United States. Additionally, growing up I was around Tagalog, the language of the Philippines. Tagalog is very similar to Spanish, so it helps me to understand Spanish slightly. At the meeting everyone split off into tables based on skill level, so I sat with other beginner Spanish speakers. I met different students who were studying Spanish and practicing their own language skills, and even though I didn’t have much experience it was nice to try. After talking for a bit, we played Spanish hangman. It was a fun experience as it exposed me to different Spanish words that I wasn’t familiar with, as I mostly only knew Spanish cognates. It was an interesting time going to a meeting for one of the most popularly studied languages, as students from all different backgrounds wanted to learn Spanish. Even though I haven’t studied Spanish recently, the meeting gave me an appreciation for how useful and important it can be to learn Spanish.
This semester I have gotten involved with the Multicultural Engineering Program. It is a program put into place to connect multicultural engineering students, and engineering students in general, to each other, to alumni, and to job opportunities. I have really appreciated the Multicultural Engineering Program because I have gotten a chance to know other students from different backgrounds and cultures, something that is sometimes hard to find just in my classes. Through the program, I also got the chance to attend a Spring Break trip around Dallas and Houston which was very rewarding. We went to various companies and met with OU Multicultural Engineering Program alumni, who were all very nice and excited to show us their companies. We also got to meet Jim Gallogly, who is the new namesake of the Engineering College. My favorite part, though, was getting to know the other Multicultural Engineering students on the trip and meeting people who have similar values to me. I’m very glad I got involved with this organization and it has already given me many opportunities.
I really appreciate the Multicultural Engineering Program because it introduces me to other students with diverse backgrounds who are interested in the same thing as I am professionally. One thing I have noticed is that I tend to gravitate towards people with diverse backgrounds but similar interests as me, whereas I know some people tend to gravitate towards people with similar backgrounds as them but not necessarily similar interests or values. Not only has the Multicultural Engineering Program introduced me to students of diverse backgrounds, it has also introduced me to various diverse OU alumni who are doing really interesting things with their lives and careers. The most important part about the Multicultural Engineering Program to me is that it supports people from different backgrounds. It is often hard to feel support or guidance in engineering programs, which are typically dominated by white men, but the Multicultural Engineering Program encourages people from less privileged backgrounds and ensures they feel like they have a chance in the industry.
Video games have always been a big part of my life, from my childhood up until now. I grew up playing Nintendo 64 and GameBoy Advance, and many games from Japan had a big influence on my life and outlook on things as a kid. These games were presenting something that was a bit harder to find immediately surrounding me, and that was curiosity and imagination. The games I enjoyed were objectively bizarre, such as Pokemon, which involved capturing different monsters inspired by animals, and Kingdom Hearts, which combined different American Disney cartoons with a Japanese inspired plot focused around the battle between dark and light. These games, although coming from across the globe, shaped my sense of adventure and wonder. Now, I still continue to play video games created in different parts of the world, whether from Europe, Asia, or the Americas. One thing that has blown my mind in recent years is how the advancement of the Internet has allowed me to enjoy these games with people from all over the world. Games such as League of Legends and Mario Kart have allowed me to interact with and enjoy an experience with people from all around the world at the same time. I often wonder what the people in those other countries are doing and how their lives differ from mine culturally. It is an amazing phenomenon and one that I hope continues to become more and more globalized.